Former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili says report has revealed that 56 million Nigerians are still illiterate and cannot read and write.
She spoke at the 3rd Lagos State Education Summit at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, southwest Nigeria on Tuesday. The summit has the theme: Qualitative Education in Lagos State: Raising the Standard.
According to Ezekwesili, Nigeria “accounts for 6 million out of 36 million school girls that cannot attend primary education worldwide. There are about 56 million illiterates in Nigeria. Primary school completion rate ranges between two percent to 92 percent depending on the state.”
She said the issue of bureaucracy was a major hindrance to raising the standard of education in the country, while lamenting the overwhelming power of the education minister with respect to decision-making at the unity schools, which she said, was the practice before her appointment.
Ezekwesili explained how she found out that 96 percent of the capital expenditure appropriated for the unity schools in the federation went into the construction of fences and toilets, among others and called for intensive, increased and meaningful efforts at developing public schools, showing data that more than 65 percent of Nigerians still depended on publicly funded secondary education while about 75 percent depended on publicly funded primary education.
She said when she became a minister, enrolment “was low; quality of education below standard; schools were not well-managed; and it displayed wide inequity in terms of gender enrolment, though differed across the states.”
Delivering his address on the occasion, Governor Babatunde Fashola explained that the government had not
taken any decision on whether pupils would wear Hijab or not, adding that the emphasis was on what the children know and not what they wear.
According to him, government was mindful of the inequality in the society and thought also that continuous investment in education would help to bridge those inequalities, adding that the results from public examinations from 2007 showed that education was heading in the right direction in the state, and that if it was a quick fix, it would have its many political appeals.
“It is not a quick fix. I understand that it is a very long journey. It yet may be many years long after we have left that we will see the result but it is a journey that I am convinced that we should undertake,” he said.
“Today, one of the outcomes of our investment is that a poll conducted among 5,000 disaggregated citizens in our state recently showed that 51 percent of the citizens would put their children in public primary schools. This was not the case a few years ago. It also now shows that 60 percent of the citizens will put their children in public secondary schools and the reason is not far-fetched.
“What are we doing to improve further on those outcomes? It is the training of our teachers. In the last three years, they have spent a larger part of their long vacation in training at our Staff Development Centre in Magodo,” he explained.
Fashola also spoke on the policy shift that now placed emphasis on real success in examinations to earn promotion to the next class, saying that “we are already planning this year’s training immediately they finish the exams but perhaps to underscore what our teachers have done; over the years, our children went through school from primary through secondary school moving from one class to the other with a grade of 30 percent. So the only time they ever have to score 50 percent is when they are doing the external WAEC.”
Deputy British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Carter said Britain is personally committed to the success of the Summit as it believes that education improves the quality of living of people.
He noted that the United Kingdom had continued to play roles such as facilitating inclusion of Lagos as one of the six states that is benefitting from education support programme from the Department for International Funds and Development, DFID.
Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye said the State Government had been using the Lagos Education Summit to generate new ideas to take the education sector to new heights.